Thursday, October 04, 2012
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
““This stuff is definitely not crude oil. I mean, it is completely toxic. And now we’ve got to fight a major, billion-dollar corporation over land, over our land. And if we didn’t accept anything from them, they were just going to take it by eminent domain, and our government let that happen. It’s very frustrating to be an American when this is going on. Very frustrating.”
~ Gabriel Cordova, landowner in East Texas, voicing his concern about the construction of the southern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
In this issue:
- Judge Defends Protestors’ Right to Oppose Harper’s Reckless Energy Policy
- Jackpine Expansion Faces Challenge from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
- Shell’s End Pit Lakes an Unproven “Crapshoot”
- Jackpine Expansion One Approval too Far
- POWERSHIFT CANADA pushes back Against Dirty Oil
- In the Big Debate, Romney Promises to Build KXL If Elected
- Aboriginal Opposition to KXL on the Rise
- Tar Sands Blockade Continues with Landowners’ Blessing
- Enbridge’s Kalamazoo Spill Still Polluting
- Western Premiers Pitted Against Each Other Over Pipeline
- Environment Minister Ignores Climate Change Impacts, Champions Pipelines
A judge dismissed all charges against thirteen Canadians on trial for protesting the Harper government’s climate and energy policies. The judge threw out the case against protestors Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver described as “extremists” after the Crown presented insufficient evidence that the peaceful demonstration constituted a crime.
Graham Saul welcomed the provincial court decision by Justice Paulina Brecher, because it protected their “right and responsibility” to protest “the reckless climate change and energy policies of the Harper government.” “I think that it’s also a vindication of people’s right to use these public spaces as grounds for a protest because that’s what they’re for,” Saul told Postmedia’s Mike DeSouza. “Our Parliament is supposed to represent – is supposed to be a symbol for our democracy.”
Saul suggested that the case would continue to inspire other action against the Harper government. “I think the energy and climate change policies of the Harper government are dividing Canadians and fuelling conflict,” Saul said. “I think we’re going to see more civil disobedience as more citizens take on their responsibility to stand up to what are ultimately dangerous and unethical policies.”
Saul is right. Three weeks from now, thousands of people will gather in an act of peaceful civil disobedience in Victoria, B.C. DefendOurCoast.ca is encouraging Canadians to join a lost list of prominent leaders to converge on Victoria on October 22, 2012, to show Prime Minister Harper and the BC government that Canada’s coast is not for sale! More than 2700 people have already signed up to participate, and the list continues to grow.
CLEANING UP DIRTY OILSANDS
If Harper thought protestors on Parliament Hill was a problem, now he's got a constitutional challenge to tarsands development to deal with.
This week, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) formally announced their plans to constitutionally challenge Shell Oil Canada's expansion of the Jackpine Mine tarsands project. According to the AFCN, the proposed expansion of Jackpine would threaten the resources needed to sustain aboriginal rights that are protected under Treaty 8, which the ACFN signed in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. AFCN will get their day in court on October 23rd, when the Joint Federal-Provincial Review panel will hear the challenge, just six days before Shell Canada will make defend its application before the panel.
"We have repeatedly tried to engage with both the government and Shell to find a better way to address our rights," ACFN Chief Allen Adam said in a press release. "However, the government has not listened to us or made meaningful attempts to accommodate the ACFN in relation to the impacts of this and other tar sands projects. They have failed to accurately inform themselves of what our people truly require in order to protect our lands and rights."
According to the AFCN, the Jackpine Mine expansion would disturb 12,719 hectares of land and destroy 21 kilometers of the culturally significant Muskeg River.
Shell’s End Pit Lakes an Unproven “Crapshoot”
One of the biggest problems with Shell’s Jackpine expansion is the continued growth of tailings ponds in the region. According to projections, the tarsands industry will create 30 toxic tailings ponds, turning the area around Fort McMurray into a veritable lake district of artificial watersheds covering more than 2,500 square kilometres.
Whether those lakes will be toxic or clean is a matter of fierce debate. Tarsands companies intend to deal with these old mine pits, some with toxic effluent at their bottoms by adding freshwater and turning them into what they call “end pit lakes.” According to Alberta’s industry-funded Cumulative Environmental Management Association, which will release next week a report on the fate and future of these nasty, toxin-ridden water bodies, tarsands companies have yet to build a single end pit lake, and yet projects are given the green light based on experimental trials conducted by industry. Industry is confident they will work, but the science to prove can’t be done until the first end pit lake is actually built – and it will take decades to measure and assess its effectiveness.
In its response to the environmental impact assessment of Shell's Jackpine Mine expansion, Environment Canada expressed concern that Shell's proposed end pit lakes will likely exceed Alberta's water quality standards for heavy metals, some PAHs (a nasty carcinogen) and nutrients for the next 150 years (until 2165). It goes on to state that, "EC [Environment Canada] remains concerned with Shell Canada's ability to predict and control effluent quality from the end pit lakes."
David Schindler, a respected scientist at the University of Alberta, told The Globe and Mail that no further end pit lakes should be approved until “we have some assurance that they will eventually support a healthy ecosystem.” There is no evidence, he said, “to support their viability, or the ‘modelled’ results suggesting that outflow from the lakes will be non-toxic.”
“This is a total crapshoot,” an anonymous source familiar with the report told The Globe, “in the sense that no one has ever done this before. But really, what are your options?”
The best, and proven, option is to treat the processed water and bury the dry tailings, and then fill the remaining pits with fresh water, but such remediation is much more expensive than experimental end pit lakes and industry refuses to spend the extra money to implement the plan.
"It is a basic rule of ecology that everything goes somewhere,” said Keith Stewart, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace Canada. “You simply can't create huge lakes out of toxic wastes without some leaking into the food chain."
Perhaps the members of the Joint Review Panel should permit the project only if they, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are confident enough to allow their children swim in these mysterious end pit lakes?
Meanwhile, an Alberta Environmental Law Centre (AELC) blog expressed a great deal of concern with the process for managing cumulative impacts in the tarsands. According to the blog by Jason Unger, Staff Counsel for the AECL, a recent report submitted as part of Joint Review Panel hearing on Shell’s Jackpine tarsands expansion is “illustrative of the need for greater clarity in front end policy to manage cumulative effects.”
The modeling conducted as part of the environmental impact assessment of the project indicates that it may result in the exceedance of air quality limits set out in the Lower Athabasca Region Air Quality Management Framework, and may contribute to the acidification of lakes in the region. According to Unger, “the government is likely to rely on the fact that the impacts are not realized until the authorization proceeds and the limits and triggers are measured as exceeded. (It is worth noting that there is broad discretion within the framework to determine when a trigger or limit is exceeded and whether anything should be done about it). The government has hinted at increasingly stringent conditions on approvals, but there is no clear policy about how the potential to exceed a limit will impact early planning and authorization decisions. Albertans may be left with an ‘approve now, ask for reductions later’ approach.”
Unger pointed out that that the dangers of such a procrastinative approach already have been highlighted in a 2008 Pembina Institute/Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society report, which analyzed the draft Land-Use Framework. The report proposed taking measures to “avoid hitting the wall” and other upfront measures to curb the chances of exceeding environmental limits. Such measures have yet to be clearly adopted into policy.
“If we are truly going to address cumulative effects and avoid exceeding environmental limits,” Unger argues, “we must have policy that pre-empts impacts rather than waits for impacts to occur and then struggles to respond to them. The groundwork for cumulative effects management must occur before authorization decisions are made, before mitigation is assessed, and before conditions on approvals are formulated.”
Couldn’t agree more. Let’s home the members of the Joint Review Panel assessing Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine expansion have read this blog and the report referenced herein.
Given the irresponsible and inadequate oversight of tarsands development, it’s no wonder opposition is increasing faster than hydrocarbon-fuelled global temperatures. POWERSHIFT, for instance, has come to Canada, and it’s pushing hard to end the $1.4 billion in subsidies Canadian governments gift to fossil fuel corporations each year.
In collaboration with Leadnow, POWERSHIFT CANADA has launched a petition that calls on the government to end polluter handouts. And they’re planning some scary secret Halloween action to raise the alarm about the freebies enjoyed by some of the wealthiest companies in the world at our expense.
POWERSHIFT CANADA is organizing Powershift 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario from October 26 to 29, 2012, where hundreds of young people will gather to learn from each other, learn together, and use that knowledge to strengthen the movement for climate and environmental justice.
Here’s the deal: Young Canadians face a difficult, uphill battle to create a just and sustainable future. Canada has abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, eliminated energy efficiency programs, and continues to subsidize and promote the fossil fuel industry, acts that threaten our air, water, land and the climate. Our present and future economic welfare is also at risk. We see daily reports promising cuts to our public services, the dismantling of our social security, the loss of worker’s rights, and tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them.
Sounds like good reasons to join POWERSHIFT CANADA today!
CLEANING UP DIRTY PIPELINES
As predicted by Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb and other opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, KXL made its way into the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season.
“The Keystone XL tarsands pipeline could become a point of contention during the presidential debate in Denver,” Kleeb wrote in her pre-debate blog. “Mitt Romney has pledged that he would approve the pipeline on Day 1 of his administration, opening the spigot for 900,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil--tarsands – to flow down through the country’s breadbasket to the Gulf for the export market. This oil would not stay in America.”
Sure enough, with 40 million Americas watching, Governor Romney promised to “bring in that pipeline from Canada” to secure America’s energy independence. But as Kleeb and thousands of others pointed out on Twitter during the debate, “he didn't mention of course it's an export pipe risking land, water and property rights. [It’s] oil not for USA.”
President Obama, for his part, was silent on the KXL, though he did emphasize the need for clean sources of energy to fuel the future. “Obama avoids pipeline, farmers, ranchers, citizens across our country,” Kleeb tweeted. “Won't let him ignore risks of export pipe if he is re-elected.”
And neither should you. “Help us push back on the talking points we all know are covering up the basic facts,” Kleeb posted in her blog. “Tarsands is bad for our land, water, property rights and clean energy future.”
To tweet your opposition to KXL, visit Kleeb’s blog post for suggestions.
Two weeks ago, we wrote about growing opposition to the $7 billion, 1700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Oklahoma’s 38 Native American tribes. And this week, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) formally announced their plans to challenge Shell Oil Canada's expansion of the Jackpine Mine tarsands project on constitutional grounds.
The mood seems to be spreading through aboriginal communities across the continent. This week, on the eve of the the first presidential debate, the mighty Oglala Sioux Tribe put the presidential hopefuls on notice that they wanted nothing to do with the controversial KXL.
In a speech at a rally at Colorado’s Capitol in Denver, Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Lakota vice president and a long-time supporter of the American Indian Movement, called the pipeline a “snake that is spitting black venom into our water,” and said it “has to be stopped at our treaty lands.”
If approved the KXL pipeline would transect Native lands, primarily areas within original treaty boundaries, and it has been the subject of tribal dissent, including opposition from some Great Plains tribes and from the National Congress of American Indians.
The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution opposing the pipeline because it “involves accessing a 300-foot-wide corridor through unceded treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation,” as represented in the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868. Others have called it a violation of prior and informed consent provisions of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Today we’ve got to carry the spirit of our ancestors,” including Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Gall, Poor Bear said. “I carry their spirit in my heart.” He recalled an ancestor, Kicking Horse, who told the people at one point they must “stop living and start surviving,” but today, he said, “we’ve survived and have to start living again.”
Poor Bear’s speech was introduced by Tom Weis, president of Climate Crisis Solutions in Boulder, Colorado, who recently completed a 2,156-mile bicycle trip from the U.S./Canada border to Port Arthur, Texas to support opposition to the pipeline.
It’s nice to have people like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Poor Bear on your side.
Speaking of mighty, the Tar Sands Blockade shows no sign of letting up in its fearsome opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Last week, TransCanada’s senior supervisors actively encouraged police to use aggressive pain compliance tactics on two activists who were exercising their constitutional rights to nonviolent protest outside Winnsboro, Texas.
This week, Houston resident Alejandro de la Torre delayed the destruction of a small family farm in East Texas by locking himself to a concrete capsule buried in the ground, in the path of Keystone XL clearing equipment. De la Torre, 28, secured himself to the ground to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from destroying the home of yet another Texas family threatened by TransCanada’s poisonous tar sands slurry.
“I’m here to stand up for people on the front lines because they’re being trampled to make way for corporate profits,” De la Torre said.
Wood County Sheriff Department confiscated peaceful observers’ cameras and erected a screen around De la Torre so no one could see what they did to him or how he was extracted. After delaying construction for almost an entire day, De la Torre was arrested and charged with ???. He has been released on $10,000 bail, which Tar Sands Blockade has called “an outrageous sum for a nonviolent peaceful protester.”
The landowner said it was fine if the blockaders stayed on her land, and her son, Gabriel Cordova, said that this was more than they bargained for when they allowed TransCanada to build on their land. “This stuff is definitely not crude oil,” he told ETX News. “I mean, it is completely toxic.
Cordova told ETX News he is sad to see the kids on his property having to go to such extremes to be heard, but he said he’s confident their cause is one worth fighting for. “I just wanted to move out here to live in peace and quiet,” Cordova said. “And now we’ve got to fight a major, billion-dollar corporation over land, over our land. And if we didn’t accept anything from them, they were just going to take it by eminent domain, and our government let that happen. It’s very frustrating to be an American when this is going on. Very frustrating.
More than two years after an Enbridge pipeline spilled more than a million gallons of bitumen crude into the Kalamazoo River, the bitumen-laden mess continues to impact waterways and communities in Michigan. On October 3, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked Enbridge to finish the job of cleaning up the mess they made.
According to an EPA press release, more work is needed to clean up oil in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, upstream of Ceresco Dam, upstream of the Battle Creek Dam, and in the delta upstream of Morrow Lake. Enbridge has 10 days to request a conference with EPA to discuss the additional work specified in the proposed order and 30 days to submit written comments.
The EPA opened up parts of the Kalamazoo watershed earlier this year, but much work remains to be done to return it to the state it was in before Enbridge’s 30-inch pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Heavy rains caused the river to overtop existing dams and carried oil 30 miles downstream before the spill was contained. So far, oil spill response workers have collected over 1.1 million gallons of oil and almost 200,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated sediment and debris from the Kalamazoo River system.
Too big to fail? Don’t count on it.
You could see the frost in the air when BC Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford emerged from a short meeting they both described as “frosty.”
In order to assume the risks associated with Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would connect Alberta’s tarsands to the BC coast, Clark wants a “fair share” of the financial benefits stemming from the improved access to Asian markets. Redford, who said sharing bitumen royalties and taxes is out of the question, said Ms. Clark is short on suggestions when it comes to how B.C. could increase its slice of the pipeline’s economic benefits.
“I wouldn’t say we made a whole lot of progress,” Clark told reporters after meeting with Redford in Calgary. “I’d say it was frosty.” She then said “brainstorming” potential answers was not her responsibility.
In a recent editorial, the Calgary Herald editorial board agreed that “B.C. does indeed bear the most risk, so it behooves Alberta to carry the torch on this.”
Maybe if the Alberta government put a hold on further development in what it calls the oil sands, and cleaned up the gargantuan mess they’ve already made, Clark would have a little more faith in Alberta’s goodwill. Until then, Christy, “Just say no” to the Northern Gateway.
In related news, it appears that Peter Kent, Canada’s impotent Federal Environment Minister, has chosen to ignore the facts and figures Environment Canada provided him to communicate the tremendous economic and employment impacts climate change would have on Canadians.
According to The Globe and Mail, Environment Canada offered up a slide show full of concrete examples to help its minister make “useful” public comments about the reality of global warming in Canada, and the numbers are alarming: an average temperature increase of 1.6 degrees Celsius across Canada compared to a global increase of 0.7 degrees Celsius; combined spending of $1.2 billion by the governments of Canada, British Columbia and Alberta to respond to the mountain pine beetle epidemic will result in the loss of 8,000 jobs and the closure of 16 lumber mills by 2018; and economic losses of $5.8 billion and 41,000 jobs lost because of droughts in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2001 and 2002 that have affected the agriculture industry.
But Kent seems to have forgotten to include the realities of climate change in his rhetoric, choosing instead to impugn the integrity of tarsands opponents and stump for tarsands development and bitumen pipelines instead. “The experts at Environment Canada put together an excellent toolkit of real-life examples and scientific data about the serious impacts of global warming,” said Clare Demerse, the Pembina Institute’s director of federal policy. “They asked their minister to tell that story to Canadians, but Peter Kent hasn’t taken their advice: his recent speeches contain virtually nothing from that memo.”
Meanwhile, a “secret” briefing note prepared for Kent indicates that two proposed pipeline projects to get Alberta’s dirty bitumen crude to the West Coast were “top of mind” when the Harper government decided to gut some of Canada’s most important pieces of environmental legislation in an omnibus bill dressed up as the 2012 budget.
“Pipeline development is certainly among the major industrial sectors that are top-of-mind as we consider the modernization of our regulatory system,” said the briefing material, prepared for a Jan. 26 meeting between Kent; his former deputy minister, Paul Boothe; and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
According to Postmedia News, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency confirmed in August that it cancelled nearly 3,000 environmental assessments as a result of the new legislation, including about 250 reviews of projects involving a pipeline.
After reviewing the briefing notes, NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie told Postmedia News that the material demonstrates that the budget legislation was designed to remove environmental laws standing in the way of projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. She also said it indicates the government had made up its mind to overhaul environmental assessment legislation before Parliament had a chance to complete reviewing the situation. “Now that I see this briefing document, I realize that the fix was in from the beginning. It also confirms what I’ve been saying about the 2012 spring budget and that is that it was a pipeline budget.”
How convenient for Enbridge to have such cooperative bedfellows on Parliament Hill.